The heat rises in distorted gold
waves around fire
but without fire,
anything seen through it.
The heat rises, rasping
the air it rises through,
scuffing the surface,
if the air has a surface.
The tall summer
field is the keeper
of secrets. Lie down
and forget your body, forgive
your body its bad cradle,
Lie down and listen
to the rasp, to heat sweep
the pale, dry grass as if
it were your own
breathing, as if the field
you’ve pressed your shape into
is a broom in reverse,
a broom being
swept by the wind.
— Maggie Smith
Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg,
cluster of lights sharpening
as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge
darkened. Not stars
but blue-black mountains rose
before me, rose like sleep
after hours of driving, hundreds of miles
blurred behind me. My eyelids
were so heavy but I could see
far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing,
lightning sparking from cloud
to mountaintop. I drove toward it,
into the pass at Ironto, the dark
now deeper in the long steep grades,
heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted
with evergreens, with spruce, pine,
and cedar. How I wished to sleep
in that sweet air, which filled–
suddenly over a rise–with the small
lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere
they drifted, sweeping from the trees
down to the highway my headlights lit.
Fireflies blinked in the distance
and before my eyes, just before
the windshield struck them and they died.
Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass
their bodies clung like buds bursting
the clean line of a branch in spring.
How long it lasted, how many struck
and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic
stare fixed on the road ahead, I can’t say.
Beyond them, beyond their swarming
bright deaths came the rain, a shower
which fell like some dark blessing.
Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on
what an eerie glowing beauty faced me.
In that smeared, streaked light
diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen
my face. It was weary, shocked, awakened,
alive with wonder far after the blades and rain
swept clean the light of those lives
passed, like stars rolling over
the earth, now into other lives.
— Michael Pettit
Eruptive lightnings flutter to and fro
Above the heights of immemorial hills;
Thirst-stricken air, dumb-throated, in its woe
Limply down-sagging, its limp body spills
Upon the earth. A panting silence fills
The empty vault of Night with shimmering bars
Of sullen silver, where the lake distils
Its misered bounty.—Hark! No whisper mars
The utter silence of the untranslated stars.
— E.E. Cummings
Your voice, with clear location of June days,
Called me outside the window. You were there,
Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare
Of uncontested summer all things raise
Plainly their seeming into seamless air.
Then your love looked as simple and entire
As that picked pear you tossed me, and your face
As legible as pearskin’s fleck and trace,
Which promise always wine, by mottled fire
More fatal fleshed than ever human grace.
And your gay gift—Oh when I saw it fall
Into my hands, through all that naïve light,
It seemed as blessed with truth and new delight
As must have been the first great gift of all.
— Richard Wilbur
When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.
— Georgia Douglas Johnson
Fifty wizards working in the wind
And one tall wizard standing in the rear
Made a quick sheen to lacquer all Vermont.
Up leapt the sun. The air was far and near.
The weeds, the grass, the corn, the slipping river
Made wizard quiet. My noon-sleepy deer
Whisked in the shade, saw winsome sun go over,
And still those wizards brewed the atmosphere.
The lone tall wizard opened up the west.
Sunset made its exit beryl and sheer.
Those wizards leapt like acrobats, swinging free,
Hung their thin capes upon cold Vega’s spear. . .
Galaxies were thick, weather was clear.
— Genevieve Taggard